Home Consumer Google’s New ‘Find My’ Device Network Is Useful But A Stalking Risk

Google’s New ‘Find My’ Device Network Is Useful But A Stalking Risk

Photo 186289276 © Maren Winter | Dreamstime.com
Photo 186289276 © Maren Winter | Dreamstime.com

By Shira Ovide

If you have an Android phone or tablet, Google will email you soon — if it hasn’t already — to say your device will automatically beam its location anonymously to strangers’ compatible gadgets nearby. It’s to help find lost devices.

Apple has been doing this for several years with iPhones, Macs, the Apple Watch and other devices. That’s how its AirTags work — by pinging everyone’s nearby Apple devices to triangulate location.

Google is letting you opt out of the company’s similar “Find My” network. What should you do?

Faith Based Events

My advice: Most people should say yes to Google’s location-tracking network.

It will help you more easily locate your Android phone, some Bluetooth headphones or other belongings when they’re misplaced or stolen. You’re helping other people do the same.

There is an exception. If you believe there’s a risk strangers or someone you know could be stalking you, don’t let Google add your devices to this digital narc network. If you don’t say no, your Android devices will be automatically added.

(I have instructions at the bottom of this article to turn off this feature for Apple and Android phones.)

The always-on location-tracking networks from Google and Apple highlight the trade-off of many technologies: Features that are useful or innocuous for most people can create dangers for others.

One privacy expert said the stalking risks of Apple’s and Google’s location-emitting networks are so serious that the technologies shouldn’t be permitted.

What are Apple’s and Google’s ‘Find My’ networks?

For years, Apple and Google have had “Find My” apps and websites that help you locate your phone and delete its contents from afar if it’s lost or stolen. They work for some other devices, too.

Those features typically use multiple signals to approximate your device’s location, including satellite GPS, nearby cellular towers and WiFi connections.

Apple — and Google, as of last month — have gone a step further by adding crowdsourced Bluetooth signals to the mix. The companies lump all of these location-finding technologies into their “Find My” apps.

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